04/25/2016 11:06AM

Dennis O'Neill continues picking out future stars at sales

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Barbara D. Livingston
Dennis O'Neill (right) selected Nyquist and Land Over Sea as unraced 2-year-olds, both of whom are trained by his brother Doug (left).

The not-so-secret weapon that has carried owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill back to Louisville, Ky., is Doug’s older brother, Dennis O’Neill. The bloodstock wizard selected both the unbeaten champion Nyquist and Grade 2 winner Land Over Sea as unraced 2-year-olds. Nyquist is expected to be favored in the Kentucky Derby, while Land Over Sea is a strong contender in the Kentucky Oaks following the defection of Songbird.

“He’s able to go to those sales – there’s 1,200 horses, and Dennis doesn’t do a lot of socializing. He just focuses,” Doug O’Neill said. “Those sales seem really slow for him. For most of us, it’s craziness. Dennis does a great job of finding horses that we can have a chance to do good with. Don’t know exactly what he does, but he does a damn good job with it.”

Nyquist was a $400,000 purchase – fairly pricey for the O’Neills – from trainer Niall Brennan’s consignment at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds in training. But he has turned out to be something of a bargain, considering the rising commercial popularity of phenomenal young sire Uncle Mo. Nyquist has earned $3,322,600, which would make him the richest horse ever to start in the Kentucky Derby. His earnings include a $1 million bonus as a Fasig-Tipton sale graduate to win the Florida Derby.

“I fell in love with him the first time I saw him,” Dennis O’Neill said. “He had a beautiful body, and he looked so athletic. I thought we might have to pay about $800,000 for him, but surprisingly, we got him for $400,000. You just never know in these sales.”

Land Over Sea joined the barn later that spring, purchased for $130,000 from agent Victor Davila at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.

“I thought she might be in the $60,000 to $80,000 range, but we had to go to $130,000,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill selected two other eventual graded stakes winners for Reddam at the 2015 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds. He landed Grade 1 winner Gomo for $75,000 and Grade 3 winner Frank Conversation for $120,000.

“One of his big things is he looks for a horse that’s really good in the stall,” Doug O’Neill said. “Once he likes an athlete, he’s constantly going back and monitoring them. Most of these athletes, if they expend a lot of energy in the stall, you’re not gonna see them perform well in the afternoon. And he picks a horse with a good foot, which helps us out. If they’ve got good feet and they’re good in the stall, we’ve got a chance.”

Dennis O’Neill was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when I’ll Have Another, whom he selected for just $35,000 at the 2011 OBS spring sale, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His bid for the Triple Crown ended when he was scratched with a career-ending injury the day before the Belmont Stakes.

“I’d be lying if I said I knew the Flower Alley colt would win the Derby or anything like that, but I can tell you it was a case of love at first sight,” Dennis O’Neill said at the time.

Other star horses selected by the agent include Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and champion Stevie Wonderboy for $100,000 at the 2005 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale, two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents for $62,000 at the 2012 OBS June sale, and Grade 1 winner Wickedly Perfect for $70,000 at the 2010 OBS April sale.

Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Great article, but the writer failed to mention that Dennis O'Neill is a survivor of not one but two types of cancer. He is understandably an inspiration to everyone who knows him and works with him.
Gene Martin More than 1 year ago
Doug O'Neill gets 100 babies a year to go through. Of course he is going to have success. But based on this article, and reading BS like he likes a horse that is "good in the stall" or one with a good foot??? Come on Drug, stop with the BS. It takes clients with deep pockets and numbers to be successful. Oh year, and what Doug uses and has been caught with umpteen times doesn't hurt either. 
Anthony Bartolo More than 1 year ago
Tool
Chas More than 1 year ago
So...a person states a view that is real and you, call him a 'Tool'? Clearly, you need to improve your knowledge of the sport...also, anyone who calls another a 'Tool' is indeed one themselves....
Anthony Bartolo More than 1 year ago
My response to him is based on the fact that he is using numbers that are exaggerated.  O'Neill probably gets 20-30 2 year old's a year.  And i have probably forgotten more than you will ever know Chas.  So my feeling still stands, Tool is fitting for both of you
Gene Martin More than 1 year ago
I speak in fact and you call me a "tool"  And how would you know that you know more than anyone about anything, when people are a name behind a screen on here. It shows how ignorant you really are.
Chas More than 1 year ago
It is not BS by Doug...it is Doug's way of not 'exposing himself' to the people who know that he can not train...
curtis1440clark More than 1 year ago
Fast horses make great trainers, ask Bob, and of course pace-less races make triple crown winners
Gene Martin More than 1 year ago
Doug O'Neill gets 100 babies a year to go through. Of course he is going to have success. But based on this article, and reading he likes a horse that is "good in the stall" or one with a good foot??? Come on, stop with the BS. It takes clients with deep pockets and numbers to be successful. Oh year, and what Doug uses doesnt hurt either. 
jwsist01 More than 1 year ago
Obviously you are miss informed, Doug gets 25-35 2 year olds each year, Dennis has a strong record for finding value in 35k to 70k horses which have won triple crown and Breeder Cup races. 
Gene Martin More than 1 year ago
He has unlimited funds... He has done well, but people wants to portray him as some guru... Buy enough horses, you will be fortunate, especially when your brother is one of the biggest cheaters in racing history.